Sunday, September 30, 2018

Today's Links

1---Rosenstein's central role in Russia probe

Fast Track Chronology
  • February 1, 2017, Rod Rosenstein is nominated by President Trump for the position of Deputy Attorney General;
  • April 27, 2018: Rod Rosenstein assumes office as Deputy Attorney General;
  • May 9, 2017 Rosenstein fires FBI Director James Comey. Upon his firing, Andrew McCabe, a Hillary Clinton crony is appointed Acting FBI Director;
  • May 19, 2017. Ten days later the Attorney General’s office appoints former FBI Director Robert Mueller as Special Council to lead the Russia Probe.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was largely instrumental in the firing of FBI Director James Comey. That decision did not emanate from president Trump....

The Mueller investigation under the auspices of the Department of Justice had a mandate to “exploring any coordination between Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and the Russian government as part of the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections”. (The investigation is being conducted without probable cause that a crime was committed. No legal basis for probe.)

2--Eurasian integration continues--Railroad link to connect Russia’s St. Petersburg with Germany’s Berlin


3--We don’t need nationalism, we need wise, cautious leadership, Eric Margolis


As a former soldier and war correspondent, I cringe when I see all the faux patriotism of sports events, chants of ‘USA, ‘USA,’ and pro-war propaganda on TV. Having walked many of the battlefields of World War I, on which millions died, I detest the kind of patriotic cant that ended the civilized glories of pre-war, 19th Century Europe. The idiotic cries in 1914 of ‘on to Berlin’ and ‘on to Paris’ haunt us. Their modern version was ‘Get Saddam’ and ‘bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.’

Trump, who sees himself as more an emperor than democratic president, continues to press for war with Iran, egged on by the cabal of pro-Israel advisors that surround him. Billionaire gambling king Sheldon Adelson pulls the strings from just backstage....

President Trump, who thundered at North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, ‘my nuclear button is bigger than yours,’ is not the best pilot to guide his nation through dangerous waters. While Trump has some solid advisors – generals Mattis and Kelly – he is also surrounded by a coterie of political fanatics, many plucked from the political gutter. Trump’s unnecessary trade wars and embargoes could easily lead to shooting wars.
We don’t need nationalism, we need wise, cautious leadership

4--The Battle for Our Minds, P Lawrence

After reading The New York Times piece “The Plot to Subvert an Election” I put the paper down with a single question. 
Why, after two years of allegations, indictments, and claims to proof of this, that, and the other did the newspaper of record—well, once the newspaper of record—see any need to publish such a piece? My answer is simple: The orthodox account of Russia-gate has not taken hold: It has failed in its effort to establish a consensus of certainty among Americans. My conclusion matches this observation: The orthodox narrative is never going to achieve this objective. There are too many holes in it.

5--Senior French Intel: Head of Donetsk, Zakharchenko, Was Assassinated by Ukraine Intelligence, with Support from US, UK

"The CIA and Green Berets have the world’s most advanced booby traps, and the one in the “Separ” restaurant is a 'signature' British or American job."

CB: I know who killed Alexander Zakharchenko in Donetsk. This was done by the 3rd Special Operations Regiment of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine. Training was provided by US instructors at the Khmelnitsky Training Centre, one of their bases in Ukraine.

It is important to understand the context. Donbass is a very sensitive zone, where NATO in engaged in a proxy war against Russia. Ukraine serves as a NATO stooge, but Donetsk is on Russia’s side. The Head of the DPR (Donetsk People’s Republic) Alexander Zakharchenko was pro-Moscow and Putin’s close supporter. You need to know that since 2014 various western intelligence services have been operating in Donbass. In April 2014 the CIA chief John Brennan came to Kiev using a fictitious name to give instructions (for Euromaidan). And now they have CIA instructors over there, Canadians too. They undertake specific action to crush the Donetsk Republic...

CB: In recent history, during the war in Chechnya US instructors trained terrorists to mount explosives in lamp-post bases. They used the power supply network as an electro-detonator. When the Russian Army and tanks entered the road, the terrorists pushed the button. The explosions would strike Russian equipment and personnel within the radius of a few meters. That caught the Russians off-guard, because those hidden bombs are just not in Russia’s military “DNA”. But they are very much so in America’s.

The CIA and Green Berets have the world’s most advanced booby traps, and the one in the “Separ” restaurant is a “signature” British or American job.
Even Gaddafi’s explosives’ specialists were trained and armed by former CIA operatives. They helped them to disguise booby traps as lamps, alarm clocks, vases, radios and even ashtrays. So, those who installed the bomb in Donetsk were US-trained, these smart bombs are their signature.

6--Kavanaugh’s Defense Misleads or Veers Off Point

Judge Kavanaugh repeatedly testified that three people had exonerated him of Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations that he sexually assaulted her during a gathering of teenagers outside Washington in the summer of 1982. “Dr. Ford’s allegation is not merely uncorroborated, it is refuted by the very people she says were there, including by a longtime friend of hers,” he said on Thursday, punctuating his statement with an extra “refuted.”
While it is true that the three people did not corroborate Dr. Blasey’s account, they did not “refute” it either. Dr. Blasey had said that two of them were in the house, and one of them was in the room at the time of the alleged assault....

Mark Judge was “a different story,” Dr. Blasey said. “I would expect that he would remember this happened.” Dr. Blasey accused Mr. Judge, a close friend and classmate of Judge Kavanaugh’s at Georgetown Preparatory School, of being in the room during the alleged assault and jumping onto the bed.
In his statement to the committee, Mr. Judge, through his lawyer, wrote that he had “no memory of this alleged incident” and that he did “not recall the party described.”....

His statements are at odds with how some of his classmates remembered him. In interviews before his testimony, nearly a dozen college classmates of Judge Kavanaugh’s said they recalled him indulging in heavy drinking, some saying it went beyond normal consumption. (To be sure, a smaller number of classmates said his drinking was unexceptional.)
Reached after the hearing, Lynne Brookes, an undergraduate classmate of Judge Kavanaugh’s at Yale University, said she believed he had “grossly misrepresented and mischaracterized his drinking.”
“He frequently drank to excess,” she said. “I know because I frequently drank to excess with him.”...

Another Yale classmate, Elizabeth Swisher, now a Seattle physician, said: “I drank a lot. Brett drank more.”
“I definitely saw him on multiple occasions stumbling drunk where he could not have rational control over his actions or clear recollection of them,” said Daniel Lavan, who lived in Mr. Kavanaugh’s dorm freshman year. “His depiction of himself is inaccurate.”

Judge Kavanaugh disputed such accounts, saying they did not point to specific instances. But his own recollections have offered clues about his drinking. His high school yearbook, for example, refers to him as the treasurer of the Keg City Club, noting “100 Kegs or Bust.” Multiple high school classmates, in interviews, described Judge Kavanaugh as a heavy and frequent drinker.
As an undergrad, he was affiliated with two organizations known for hard partying, including the fraternity Delta Kappa Epsilon.

He also recounted his own drinking exploits in speeches. In a 2014 address to Yale Law students, he recalled a night of “group chugs” in Boston that ended with his group “falling out of the bus onto the front steps of Yale Law School at about 4:45 a.m.”...

During his confirmation hearings earlier this month, Judge Kavanaugh said that when he worked in the White House of George W. Bush, he was unaware that a Republican staffer had stolen documents about judicial nominations from the computer servers of Democratic lawmakers. He maintained that receiving the documents did “not raise red flags” because “information sharing was common.”
Documents released by the National Archives show that Manuel Miranda, the Republican aide, had sent Judge Kavanaugh several of the stolen files between 2002 and 2003. One email chain released by the Archives describes wanting to meet at Mr. Miranda’s house so that Judge Kavanaugh, who was a White House lawyer working on judicial confirmations, could receive “useful info” about two Democratic senators.

Mr. Miranda told The Times that he had never informed Mr. Kavanaugh about the computer servers. Democrats say the documents show that Judge Kavanaugh must have been aware that the information he was receiving from Mr. Miranda was stolen from Democratic computers. Emails from Mr. Miranda to Judge Kavanaugh included remarkable detail about Democratic plans, and some were marked as “highly confidential” or “intel.”
But Judge Kavanaugh offered a more benign interpretation, saying that he merely assumed at the time that Mr. Miranda had received the information from friendly Democratic staffers.

7--How We Know Kavanaugh Is Lying

James Roche, Kavanaugh’s freshman year roommate at Yale, says Kavanaugh was “frequently incoherently drunk,” and that “he became aggressive and belligerent” when he was drunk.

Noah Rothman of Commentary said that “Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s pain was real and searing” and “the line of questioning pursued by a criminal prosecutor hired by Senate Republicans failed to effectively undermine her credibility” but that Kavanaugh “argued forcefully that the condemnation of him and his family over a rumor with no contemporary corroborating evidence in its favor would be a monumental injustice, and he’s correct.” The hearing, Rothman said, resolved nothing about the facts.

the lack of corroboration doesn’t itself make the allegation dubious, and if we demand eyewitnesses before believing victims, most of the time someone who did this would get away with it, because most of the time people are sexually violated in private. Of course there is a serious risk to the “believe all accusers” approach—it leads to wrongful convictions. But there is also a risk to a “never believe an uncorroborated charge” approach—it means that you can attack someone if you’re alone with them, and as long as you leave no marks, you’ll get away with it forever.  ...

when we examine the testimony of Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford honestly, impartially, and carefully, it is impossible to escape the following conclusions:
  1. Brett Kavanaugh is lying.
  2. There is no good reason to believe that Christine Blasey Ford is lying. This does not mean that she is definitely telling the truth, but that there is nothing in what Kavanaugh said that in any way discredits her account.
I want to show you, clearly and definitively, how Brett Kavanaugh has lied to you and lied to the Senate. I cannot prove that he committed sexual assault when he was 17, and I hesitate to draw conclusions about what happened for a few minutes in a house in Maryland in the summer of 1982. But I can prove quite easily that Kavanaugh’s teary-eyed “good, innocent man indignant at being wrongfully accused” schtick was a facade. What may have looked like a strong defense was in fact a very, very weak and implausible one.  ...

“Nobody she says was there remembers it, though one of them believes it happened.” Kavanaugh concluded that “Dr. Ford’s allegation is not merely uncorroborated, it is refuted by the very people she says were there, including by a long-time friend of hers. Refuted.” It wasn’t refuted in the least. (Kavanaugh also plays a canny trick with the word here: “refuted” can mean both “denied” and “disproven,” so it’s true to say that Mark Judge “refuted” Ford in the sense of denying involvement, but not true that Judge’s denial actually disproved anything. By using refuted this way, one can blur the distinction and imply to the audience that an accusation has been disproven that has merely been denied!)...

Kavanaugh, who scoffs that he didn’t live near Ford’s country club, lived closer to it than she did!
So Kavanaugh’s testimony about the event itself is shot through with both outright lies and calculated manipulations of the facts. Now let’s look at some of the ways in which he deceived the Senate about the early part of his life in an attempt to discredit Christine Blasey Ford.

Ford alleges that at the time of the assault, Kavanaugh and Judge were “visibly drunk.” The other allegations against Kavanaugh, by Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick, suggest that Kavanaugh participated in a rowdy drinking culture as a young man, and that the abuse occurred under the influence of alcohol. Swetnick says she “observed Brett Kavanaugh drink excessively at many of these parties and engage in abusive and physically aggressive behavior toward girls.” So drinking forms a major part of all the allegations, and facts about Kavanaugh’s history with alcohol bear on the plausibility of all three....

His decision to present himself as squeaky clean, rather than wayward but subsequently redeemed, brings us to some of the most absurd untruths of Kavanaugh’s whole testimony. The evidence that he was more than an ordinary social drinker is voluminous. His yearbook lists him as treasurer of the “Keg City Club,” and his entry says “100 Kegs or Bust,” apparently referring to a “campaign by his friends to empty 100 kegs of beer during their senior year.” It also says he was the “biggest contributor” to the Beach Week Ralph Club, which he admitted was a reference to vomiting. Here’s Liz Swisher, a Yale classmate of Kavanaugh’s who is now chief of the gynecologic oncology division at the University of Washington School of Medicine:
Brett was a sloppy drunk, and I know because I drank with him. I watched him drink more than a lot of people. He’d end up slurring his words, stumbling… There’s no medical way I can say that he was blacked out. . . . But it’s not credible for him to say that he has had no memory lapses in the nights that he drank to excess.
Here’s Daniel Livan, who lived in Kavanaugh’s dorm:
I definitely saw him on multiple occasions stumbling drunk where he could not have rational control over his actions or clear recollection of them… His depiction of himself is inaccurate.

 "Devil's triangle"??

Let me turn to my colleague Pete Davis, who went to high school in the D.C. area and knows what the term means:
It’s one of the most blatant lies I’ve ever seen. It’s special among the lies because it’s not a simple denial. It’s a completely fake game that he invented whole cloth. Every guy who went to my D.C.-area high school knows what “devil’s triangle” means. I’m sure Brett Kavanaugh knows what it means, too. There is no reference to this “drinking game” on the entire internet or in the entire history of books written in English. There are, however, tons of references to the other act, an act that a high school jock would be into joking about. And it’s relevant to the crime because it’s literally what Ford is accusing Kavanaugh and Judge of attempting to do.
So we know he was lying when he pretended he didn’t know it was a threesome. Does this affect how much we should trust Kavanaugh when he says he didn’t try to force Christine Ford into one and was innocent in all sexual matters? I’ll let you decide that one....

Kavanaugh must also know full well that men get away with sexual misbehavior for innumerable reasons: They can sue you, they can publicly discredit you, they can cause you to be inundated with death threats, they can make you a national punchline, they can beat the shit out of you. The reason women don’t report is precisely because they know uncorroborated allegations will be dismissed! They know that “I am a federal judge, therefore I would not do this” somehow actually flies as a defense in the United States Senate! 

The Democratic senators were predictably useless in trying to figure out the answer to the simple question of whether Kavanaugh was telling lies. They left important questions unanswered, failed to pursue promising threads, and seemed to spend most of their questioning time arguing about whether and how there should be an FBI investigation into the allegations. But while the FBI investigation may turn up additional useful information, at this point there is absolutely no need for it unless Christine Blasey Ford wants it. It’s completely unnecessary in determining whether Brett Kavanaugh should be on the Supreme Court; even the very limited questions already asked of Kavanaugh have yielded disqualifying answers. Kavanaugh is lying, it’s provable, and that’s all there is to it. Unless you think it’s acceptable to have someone on the federal bench who treats duly sworn oaths as meaningless, the guy shouldn’t be holding any office.

What does it say about this country that this is the state of our discourse? That Kavanaugh even stands any chance of being made one of the most powerful figures in the American government, with control over life and liberty? That a man like this is even a judge? He went before the United States Senate and showed total contempt for his vow to tell the truth. He attempted to portray a highly esteemed doctor as a crazy person, by  consistently misrepresenting the evidence. He treated the public like we were idiots, like we wouldn’t notice as he pretended he was ralphing during Beach Week from too many jalapeños, as he feigned ignorance about sex slang, as he misread his own meticulously-kept 1982 summer calendar, as he replied to questions about his drinking habits by talking about church, as he suggested there are no alcoholics at Yale, as he denied knowing who “Bart O’Kavanaugh” could possibly be based on, as he declared things refuted that weren’t actually refuted, as he claimed witnesses said things they didn’t say, as he failed to explain why nearly a dozen Yale classmates said he drank heavily, as he invented an imaginary drinking game to avoid admitting he had the mind of a sports jock in high school, as he said Ford had only accused him last week, as he responded to his roommate’s eyewitness statement with an incoherent story about furniture, as he pretended Bethesda wasn’t five miles wide, as he insisted Renate should be flattered by the ditty about how easy she was, as he declared that distinguished federal judges don’t commit sexual misconduct even though he had clerked for exactly such a judge.




Saturday, September 29, 2018

Today's Links

1--Russia Is Ready To Provide Iraq With Syria-like Military Assistance


2--Kavanaugh Friend Mark Judge Says He’ll Cooperate With FBI If Investigation Opens 


“If the FBI or any law enforcement agency requests Mr. Judge’s cooperation, he will answer any and all questions posed to him,” his lawyer said.
Mark Judge, a high school friend of Brett Kavanaugh’s who Christine Blasey Ford said was present when Kavanaugh allegedly sexually assaulted her, said he will cooperate with the FBI if an investigation is opened.
On Thursday the country heard testimony from Blasey, who said Kavanaugh ― now a nominee to the highest court in the nation ― held her down on a bed, covered her mouth with his hand and attempted to forcibly remove her clothing while at a gathering in high school. She said Judge was in the room and engaged in “uproarious laughter” with Kavanaugh.
Kavanaugh forcefully declared his innocence during his own testimony, at times yelling, crying and interrupting senators.
“If the FBI or any law enforcement agency requests Mr. Judge’s cooperation, he will answer any and all questions posed to him,” Judge’s lawyer, Barbara Van Gelder, told CNBC in an email.

3--I'm from Kavanaugh's elitist world. I know how prep-school privilege buries secrets.

 The one thing you can count on with Catholic families is that they include many kids, which meant older siblings were available to help us acquire alcohol.
To be clear, I do not know Kavanaugh or accuser Christine Blasey Ford personally, but I lived the culture in which they came of age.

What happens at prep school ...

When Kavanaugh gave a speech in 2015 at Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law and stated, “What happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep. That’s been a good thing for all of us, I think,” he summed up the culture perfectly. It was a culture of entitlement, particularly for some of the boys attending elite schools such as Georgetown Prep.

4--Who leaked Christine Blasey Ford's Kavanaugh letter?


Ford wanted to remain anonomous, but the letter was leaked to the media. Whodunnit? and why?


5--Hmmmm? The view from the right


Overall, I do believe the Kavanaugh hearings have been a positive for Trumpism. The hearings have made ever more clear the turn to Leninism among the Tutsi elites, in particular among congressional Democrats. By “Leninism” I mean the pursuit of political power by all means available, clean or dirty, without moral or ethical restraints.

Nothing matters to these people but power: not our institutions, not our laws and customs, not out history, not our Constitution, not truth or falsehood, not science or reason, not decency or respect, only Lenin’s who-whom—whose boot is stomping on whose face? They are determined that it shall be their boot, our face; and in their view, every means is legitimate to bring that about.

The U.S. Senate was a last bastion of constitutional collegiality, even into the Trump era. In April last year three Democratic Senators voted to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. I wouldn’t bet on that happening this time around. We are now firmly in an era of smash-mouth politics, of Leninist who-whom.

GOP voters have been waking up to this. That’s why they chose Trump in 2016 over a raft of more traditional, gentlemanly, fight-fair Republican candidates—the types we knew would fold like cheap suits any time someone barked “racist!” or “sexist!” at them. Trump, the voters perceived, is not like that. Trump can play the smash-mouth game. That’s why we wanted him....

You don’t have to like this transformation. I personally prefer the older, more collegial style. The Kavanaugh hearings, however, made it clearer than ever, clear enough for even the least attentive GOP voters to see, that this is our politics today, the only game in town.
If one side is playing smash-mouth, the other side has a plain choice. Either we play smash-mouth too, or we lose all our teeth while the enemy keeps his. In Orwell’s stark formulation: “If someone drops a bomb on your mother, go and drop two bombs on his mother.

6--The political issues in the Senate hearing on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh   Today's "Must Read" 

29 September 2018
After nearly nine hours of Senate testimony by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser, Christine Blasey Ford, the public is no closer to knowing what did or did not happen over thirty years ago, when Ford alleges Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her. Kavanaugh’s future as the nominee now depends on the outcome of an FBI investigation to which Senate Republicans agreed on Friday.

The allegations of sexual assault have become the sole issue in Kavanaugh’s confirmation, and the Democratic Party and the media have presented Kavanaugh’s guilt on this matter as a foregone conclusion. The focus of the proceedings reflects the political priorities of the Democratic Party and the interests of the affluent social layers to which it is appealing.

There are some who, though uncomfortable with the abrogation of the presumption of innocence that is characteristic of the Democrats’ treatment of the sexual assault allegations, are eager to seize on any opportunity to keep Kavanaugh off the court. The ends, as the saying goes, supposedly justify the means. They should be warned: This is bad politics, bad strategy, and even worse tactics. There are political consequences to such efforts to confuse and cover-up the real issues confronting the working class.

A central aim of the Democrats’ strategy in the Kavanaugh hearings has been to obscure the most important class issues. They adopt the tone of phony moral outrage over the three-decade old allegation, while expressing no similar anger or even concern over the crimes committed by the American ruling class throughout the world.

Not a day goes by where the US military is not dropping bombs or launching drone strikes, with the death toll from the “war on terror” well over one million. Thirteen thousand immigrant children are currently locked up in internment camps. Thousands of workers in the US die each year from industrial accidents and work-related illnesses. When Democratic Senator Cory Booker complains about the “patriarchy,” he looks past the fact that the fall in life expectancy in the working class is largely driven by alcoholism, drug abuse and depression among men.

Kavanaugh is himself complicit in these crimes, from which the relentless focus on allegations of sexual misconduct is intended as a diversion. There is documentary evidence Kavanaugh helped author Alberto Gonzales’ “torture memos” during the Bush administration. He is on the record praising the constitutionality of mass surveillance by the National Security Agency. Email exchanges prove he advocates repealing the right to abortion for millions of women across the country.

The Democratic Party’s refusal to address such issues is a deliberate decision. They are themselves guilty of involvement in these crimes—and intend for them to continue, whether Kavanaugh or some other reactionary is on the court.

The Democrats are not even capable of addressing the fact that twenty years ago, Kavanaugh was a central player in the Republicans’ anti-democratic use of sex scandals to attempt to bring down the administration of Democratic President Bill Clinton. To raise this issue would expose the fact that the Democrats are engaged in the same methods today.

As part of their effort to center opposition to Kavanaugh on allegations of sexual misconduct, the Democrats are utilizing the methods of #MeToo, which has consisted of treating allegations as fact, and presumption of innocence as an unnecessary burden that must be dispensed with.

The WSWS takes no position on whether Kavanaugh is guilty or not of the allegations against him. However, as a legal matter, all that has been presented is the uncorroborated assertions of one individual. At Thursday’s hearing, Democratic senators carried out a degraded spectacle, poring over Kavanaugh’s high school year book and his puerile, 16-year-old references to drinking, flatulence and vomiting as though they prove he is guilty of sexual assault.

The media has followed suit. In an editorial board statement published Thursday night, the New York Times presented Kavanaugh’s testimony as “volatile and belligerent.” The statement makes no reference to Kavanaugh’s political views but concludes that Kavanaugh was “hard to believe,” “condescending,” “clumsy,” “coy,” “misleading” and likely a “heavy drinker.” The conclusion, the reader is led to conclude, is that he must be guilty of the alleged crime.

Speaking on CNN last week, Hawaii Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono said the presumption of innocence “is what makes it really difficult for victims and survivors of these traumatic events to come forward.” New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer told reporters that there is “no presumption of innocence” in Kavanaugh’s case because “it’s not a legal proceeding. It’s a fact finding proceeding.”

The character of the Democrats’ operation in relation to the Kavanaugh hearings allowed this arch-reactionary to present himself as the victim of what he referred to in his opening statement as a “left-wing” conspiracy. The Democrats are, in fact, engaged in a highly staged political operation. However, there is nothing left-wing about it. On the contrary, the Democrats have adopted the political methods of the far-right.

The presumption of innocence is no small matter and dispensing with it has the most far-reaching consequences. Socialists have always stood against efforts by representatives of the bourgeoisie to obfuscate the class issues and undercut democratic consciousness. The causes with which the left has been historically associated involve a defense of the democratic and egalitarian principles established by bourgeois revolutions of the late 18th century, including the presumption of innocence and due process.

The use of emotion and prejudice to weaken popular support for these rights, divide the working class, and facilitate state repression, militarism, and corporate exploitation, are the historical traditions of right-wing politics. Basic democratic principles are always most vulnerable when the ruling class is able to play on moods of mass retribution against alleged perpetrators of crimes, particularly sexual violence, due to its inherent emotional appeal.

The Democrats’ strategy in the Kavanaugh hearings has much in common with these traditions. The appeals to moods of vengeance and encouraging visceral hatred of the accused are the methods of medieval justice. They are being employed to advance the Democratic Party’s efforts to win a political constituency among the affluent upper-middle class.

Socialists hold no brief for Brett Kavanaugh. But the tactics used against him will be employed with a thousand times more force and power against the oppressed and those opposed to the policies of the ruling elite. The case of WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange, persecuted for years on the basis of trumped-up sexual allegations, is one such example.

The operation of the Democrats in the Kavanaugh hearing cannot be separated from the character of its entire opposition to the Trump administration. It has sought to suppress and divert popular opposition to Trump behind the reactionary, militarist and anti-democratic agenda of dominant sections of the military-intelligence apparatus. In this conflict within the ruling class, there is no progressive or democratic faction.

Kavanaugh is a political reactionary and an enemy of the working class. However, in waging its opposition to this right-wing Republican and the Trump administration, the working class must not allow itself to be subordinated to the agenda of the Democrats. To do so would only disarm the working class, undermine democratic rights, and facilitate the ever more right-wing trajectory of American politics.

7--A Rational Backlash Against Globalization


We highlight the fragility of globalization in a democratic society that values equality. In our model, a pushback against globalization arises as a rational voter response. When a country grows rich enough, it becomes willing to sacrifice consumption in exchange for a more equal society. Redistribution is of limited value in our frictionless, complete-markets model. Our formal model supports the narrative of Rodrik (1997, 2000), who argues that we cannot have all three of global economic integration, the nation state, and democratic politics.

If policymakers want to save globalization, they need to make the world look different from our model. One attractive policy option is to improve the financial systems of less-developed countries. Smaller cross-country differences in financial development would mitigate the uneven effects of cross-border risk sharing. More balanced global risk sharing would result in lower current account deficits and, eventually, lower inequality in the rich world.

8--China and Russia clash with US over North Korea sanctions

China, Russia challenge US line

However, Chinese delegate Wang Yi said that UNSC resolutions include provisions for the modification of sanctions if North Korea comes into compliance, and “given the positive developments,” China believed the council “needs to consider invoking in due course this provision to encourage [North Korea] and other relevant parties to move denuclearization further ahead.”
Russia’s veteran Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov supported China. “Any negotiation is a two-way street,” he said. “Steps by [North Korea] towards gradual disarmament should be followed by the easing of sanctions.”

While China, North Korea and Russia have suggested a phased denuclearization, with incentives granted to Pyongyang at each step, Washington’s position is that the sanctions must remain in place until full denuclearization is achieved. That stems from the frequently expressed belief inside the Trump administration that “maximum pressure” is what forced North Korea to come out of its shell and engage the international community this year.

Beijing and Moscow cannot lift the UNSC sanctions without the agreement of Washington, which like other sitting members of the council, holds a veto. But while UNSC sanctions are binding upon member states, the UN lacks any actual mechanism to compel members to enforce them. This has been a source of frustration to the US, which has accused Russia of ignoring the sanctions, and has also suggested that China may be turning a blind eye to business across its border with North Korea.
Now, the difference of opinion between China and Russia and the US on the issue is in the open....

Currently, North Korea is demanding a peace agreement to replace the armistice that ended the 1950-53 Korean War, while the United States is demanding a full list of the North’s nuclear assets and facilities, to be followed by inspection, dismantlement and verification protocols. This apparent lack of common ground suggests that Pompeo’s Pyongyang trip will be challenging.



Friday, September 28, 2018

Today's Links

This is the most despicable thing you've seen in your time in politics, @LindseyGraham? Really? Not kids in cages, or white supremacists or a @POTUS who meets with and praises dictators, or sycophants like you beholden to him?  


I see the guy who voted AGAINST the Violence Against Women Act is trending for his ‘passionate’ defense of Kavanaugh. The hell HE has gone through. What about the hell Dr. Ford is living and reliving. The death threats & having her name smeared by cowards like you




1--Anita Hill calls Brett Kavanaugh hearing with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford "a disservice to the American people"


Anita Hill criticized the decision to set a hearing for the Kavanaugh allegations without a thorough, neutral investigation and input from experts who can include context about things like delayed reporting of sexual assault, she said.

"Setting them up this way does a disservice not only to the primary witness, but it does a disservice to the courts, and it does a disservice to the American people who want to know how to respond to these situations and they want representation that helps them understand," she said.

Women who come forward with sexual misconduct allegations are often portrayed as "crazy, vindictive, promiscuous or prudes," reactions that explain why many don't come forward sooner, Hill said.
Some of the senators who questioned her remain on the Senate Judiciary Committee, including Republican Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch. She recalled how he read from a copy of the book "The Exorcist," suggesting a passage had inspired her to invent an allegation.

2--Anita Hill, "They just don't 'get it'"

The treatment Hill faced in the 1991 hearings stirred up anger among female voters, who helped usher in the “Year of the Woman” in 1992, when a record number of women were elected to Congress. Women are already engaged in politics at a heightened level this year, motivated in part by the rise of Donald Trump, who has himself been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women. Republicans don’t want women this year getting outraged further by the Kavanaugh hearings and taking their anger to the polls a little over a month from now....

As Hill herself has noted, she might have been treated differently had she been a white woman: “How do you think certain people would have reacted if I had come forward and been white, blond-haired and blue-eyed?” she asked in 2002. Women of color face unique obstacles when speaking up about sexual misconduct, and their reports may be more likely to be dismissed. And while senators must have known the importance of treating Ford sensitively in the #MeToo era, she may also have received a more polite reception than Hill because she is white. Republicans’ appointment of Mitchell avoided the optics of men asking a woman intimate, insensitive questions about sexual misconduct. And Mitchell herself avoided using the kind of disrespectful language that aroused outrage among many women watching the Hill hearings...

In 1991,” Hill wrote in an op-ed last week in the New York Times, “the phrase ‘they just don’t get it’ became a popular way of describing senators’ reaction to sexual violence. With years of hindsight, mounds of evidence of the prevalence and harm that sexual violence causes individuals and our institutions, as well as a Senate with more women than ever, ‘not getting it’ isn’t an option for our elected representatives.”

By calling in Mitchell to ask their questions more sensitively than their predecessors did in 1991, Republicans on the Judiciary Committee showed that when it comes to understanding the optics of a hearing, they do “get it” now. But when it comes to giving a woman’s testimony, her experiences, and her feelings the same weight as a man’s, they don’t get it at all — or they just don’t care.

3--Ten Items Corroborate Dr. Blasey Ford’s Allegation Kavanaugh Tried to Rape Her

7. Yale Roomates and Friends of Kavanaugh

A key question has become, not as GOP flacks would have it whether he drinks or drinks excessively at all, but whether Kavanaugh may have sometimes or even regularly become drunk to the point of blacking out, passing out, or not remembering his actions while drunk. Many people from his Yale circles have corroborated the claim that he could be a terrible, angry drunk. His roommate told ABC News that “he became aggressive and belligerent when he was very drunk. I did not observe the specific incident [the second accusation] in question, but I do remember Brett frequently drinking excessively and becoming incoherently drunk.” These stories provide critical evidence undermining Kavanaugh’s self-presentation as almost a choir boy and support Blasey Ford’s story that he was badly drunk and violent with her.

6. Kavanaugh’s Yearbook Entries

As much as Kavanaugh tried in his testimony, he could not get past how terrible the yearbook entries make him look.  Some of his explanations, as for the Fffffffourth of  July entry, make reasonable sense on face. Several others don’t pass a basic smell test. Even he had to admit they are “a disaster,” the kind of disaster that provides corroboration to Blasey Ford’s account of his heavy drinking and rotten treatment of women.

4--Russia, China dispute US call for tougher sanctions against North Korea

Russia and China have called for an easing of UN sanctions on North Korea at a UN Security Council meeting, disputing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s appeal for a stricter enforcement despite warming bilateral relations.

The discussions were held during the annual UN General Assembly session on Thursday and were opened by Pompeo's speech during which he voiced hope for the "dawn of a new day" with Pyongyang.

The US Secretary of State, however, went on to emphasize the importance of the vigorous implementation of sanctions in convincing North Korea to negotiate, warning of any cutback on pressure “until we realize final, fully verified denuclearization."

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi contested Pompeo’s remarks explaining that North Korean cooperation and warmer US ties necessitate a loosening of sanctions.
Moreover, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov expressed support for the Chinese position, further arguing that positive steps had to be taken to encourage the North Koreans to pursue the concessions.

5--Kavanaugh defends himself--video 


6--Will ‘God’ Save Kavanaugh?


7--Sexual Assault Survivors Confront Jeff Flake On CNN: ‘Don’t Look Away From Me


8--SenWhitehouse: “This may, may, be powerful corroborating evidence that the assault happened, that it happened that day and that it happened in that place, but with no FBI investigation, we can’t tell. 


9---Senator Klobuchar--Senate Judiciary Committee meets to discuss nominations, including a scheduled vote on the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh.


10--The Kavanaugh hearing: A spectacle of political filth and reaction


The day-long, nationally televised hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, devoted to allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, was an exercise in political degradation.

The Democratic Party has chosen to wage its campaign against the nomination of Kavanaugh on the most right-wing basis possible. Rather than focus public attention on Kavanaugh’s ultra-right political views—his opposition to abortion rights, his rubber-stamping of police violence, his consistent defense of corporate interests against workers and consumers—or on his lengthy record as a partisan legal thug going back to the Clinton impeachment, the Democrats engineered a hearing in which all attention was focused on Kavanaugh’s personal conduct as a teenager.

Six broadcast and cable networks provided all-day coverage, even pre-empting their own evening news programs when the hearing ran past 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time. The national television audience was subjected to hour after hour of “grilling” by Democrats on such matters as references to flatulence and vomiting in Kavanaugh’s high school year book, whether Kavanaugh and his high school classmates drank beer on weeknights, and the meaning of obscure entries in a day-to-day calendar kept by a 17-year-old boy....

The Democratic Party’s decision to focus exclusively on Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual misconduct, to the exclusion of his politics, was a deliberate political choice. It was the senior Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Dianne Feinstein of California, who held back the allegation by Blasey Ford until after it was clear that Kavanaugh would likely be confirmed otherwise.
The charges were then leaked to the press, undoubtedly via the Democratic Party, using journalistic mouthpieces like Ronan Farrow, the former State Department official who has become the spearhead of the #MeToo campaign in Hollywood and Washington. These leaks in turn forced Blasey Ford to come forward publicly, against her own wishes....

The WSWS takes no position on the truth or falsity of the allegations. However, Blasey Ford presented no corroborating evidence beyond her own memory, nor was she asked to do so by the Democratic senators. From a legal standpoint, there were significant gaps in her account. This allowed Republicans like Lindsey Graham and John Cornyn, defenders of torture and police murders, to posture as advocates of democratic principles like the presumption of innocence, and to proclaim that America was not a police state.....

But even this open demonstration of his political standpoint as an ultra-right Republican did not evoke any significant protest from the committee Democrats. There were one or two references to Kavanaugh’s partisan diatribe, but not a single Democrat pointed to the statement as a virtual self-disqualification of the nominee as an impartial and politically “neutral” jurist, revealing him as a political hatchet-man for the extreme right.

That is in large measure because the real purpose in focusing on the sexual misconduct charges against Kavanaugh is not to defeat the nomination, but to shift the axis of official American politics even further to the right, both in the November 6 elections and beyond.

The Democratic Party has based its supposed opposition to Trump not on his reactionary attacks on democratic rights, particularly in relation to immigrants, or his tax cuts for the wealthy, or his embrace of militarism and war, but on claims that Trump is too soft on Russia. The anti-Russia campaign, an attempt to attack Trump from the right, has failed to gain any significant public support.

Supplementing the anti-Russia campaign is the raising of sexual allegations against Republican Party officeholders, including Trump himself. This was effective in defeating the Republican Senate candidate in Alabama, Roy Moore, and is now being utilized against Trump’s second Supreme Court nominee. Whether or not Kavanaugh is placed on the court, the Democrats calculate they will appeal to their upper-middle-class social base.

A particularly remarkable moment in the hearing came in Kavanaugh’s opening statement, when he declared, “This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf of the Clintons, and millions of dollars and money from outside left-wing opposition groups.”

Kavanaugh seized the opportunity provided by the Democrats to portray himself as the victim of a left-wing crusade. In fact, there is nothing left-wing about either the use of sexual allegations to discredit an opponent, or the claim that all victims must be believed regardless of evidence. The Democrats are embracing the arguments that were traditionally those of the extreme right.

The reference to “revenge on behalf of the Clintons” was revealing in this regard. Kavanaugh was making reference to his own role in the Kenneth Starr investigation into President Bill Clinton, when the future Supreme Court nominee drafted the bulk of the report which provided graphic details of Clinton’s sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, a milestone in the degradation of political life in America, which reached a new low point yesterday.

Almost exactly 20 years ago, the World Socialist Web Site commented as follows on the Starr document:

“The process of investigating Clinton's sex life is not only degrading, but inherently intimidating. If a president of the United States, supposedly the most politically powerful officeholder in the country, can be persecuted in this fashion, what can ordinary citizens expect if they come into conflict with the state?

11--After a decade of falling pay, US Federal Reserve acts to stop “wage inflation"

Since 2008, the real income for 90 percent of wage earners has been frozen in the US. Average annual raises have ranged from 2 to 3 percent a year since the beginning of 2013, which was at or below the rate of inflation. The rise of the last decade is even lower than the 4 percent increases in average hourly earnings before the 2007–2008 collapse and well below the 7 to 9 percent annual rises of the 1970s and 1980s. Adjusting for inflation, wages of American workers today have the same purchasing power as they did in 1978, according to the Pew Research Center, which said hourly earnings in real terms peaked 45 years ago, in 1973.

Due to the shifting of health care costs from the employers to workers under Obama, whatever meager wage increases workers achieved were more than eaten up by rising medical costs. Over the past nine years, employee out-of-pocket spending for a family of four in the US increased 69 percent in the form of higher co-pays and higher deductibles, along with a 105 percent employee premium contribution growth, according to a CNBC comment by health care executive Keith Lemer. The percentage of family income spent on health care rose from 8 percent in 2008 to 12 percent in 2015, adding to a de facto cut in real wage...

This was made clear in recent note to investors by a financial analyst for Charles Schwab. “Statistics dating back to 1950 show that when the unemployment rate was below 4 percent, as it is now, stock market returns were quite low,” analyst Liz Ann Sonders complained. “Conversely, when unemployment was at its highest, the stock market did very well—delivering returns that were nearly four times as high as when unemployment was plumbing the depths.”

12--Republican Women Lose Faith in Kavanaugh — and Trump — After Week of Accusations


Turkey, Russia, Germany, France to hold meeting on Syria — Erdogan


Thursday, September 27, 2018

Today's Links

Trump press conference--"Mr Kurd???"

After getting a question from a reporter from Kurdistan, while interrupting him several times, he kept exclaiming “They’re great people, they’re great fighters, I like them a lot,” after which he referred to the reporter as “Yes please, Mr. Kurd.”

1--The Huge Stakes of Thursday's Confrontations

did an anti-Trump cabal inside the Department of Justice and the FBI conspire to block Trump’s election, and having failed, plot to bring down his presidency in a “deep state” coup d’etat?

Rosenstein’s discussion of wearing a wire into the Oval Office lends credence to that charge, but there is much more to it.
The story begins with the hiring by the Clinton campaign, though its law firm cutout, in June 2016, of the dirt-divers of Fusion GPS.
Fusion swiftly hired retired British spy and Trump hater Christopher Steele, who contacted his old sources in the Russian intel community for dirt to help sink a U.S. presidential candidate.

What his Russian friends provided was passed on by Steele to his paymaster at GPS, his contact in the Justice Department, No. 3 man Bruce Ohr, and to the FBI, which was also paying the British spy.
The FBI then used the dirt Steele unearthed, much of it false, to persuade a FISA court to issue a warrant to wiretap Trump aide Carter Page. The warrant was renewed three times, the last with the approval of Trump’s own deputy attorney general, Rosenstein.

Regrettably, Trump, at the request of two allies — the Brits almost surely one of them — has put a hold on his recent decision to declassify all relevant documents inside the Justice Department and FBI.

2--It all started with Popadopoulos?

In a statement to, a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson would not address allegations suggesting former Australian Ambassador Alexander Downer was recording or spying on Papadopolous when the two met a London wine bar in May, 2016....

Papadopoulos told and Fox News Tuesday night that the “British government at the highest levels were constantly asking to meet with me, including Tobias Ellwood who was right under Boris Johnson.”

He added, “Strangely enough, the conversations were not really about the US-UK relationship, but about my ties to the energy business in Israel and Egypt. Strangely enough, Alexander Downer, Tobias Ellwood, Joseph Mifsud and Stefan Halper all wanted to know about that in their discussions with me. Why is this important? Most, if not all, those people were in one way or another were spying on me and campaign and were foreign nationals.”
In a BBC interview last week, Downer would not address allegations regarding Papadopoulos’ claims that he may have been spying on him...

John Brennan was asked if “the Papadopoulos thing (came) through the CIA via the Five Eyes thing? That would have been a piece of information that gets to the FBI? Is that how that works?” The Five Eyes is an intelligence alliance comprising of Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and the United States to share intelligence gathered by each respective nation. As for the United Kingdom and the U.S. a separate and similar agreement exists dubbed “the Special Relationship,”  which was established in 1946 and “allows the nation’s to share a lot of collected intelligence, among other things,” the former U.S. official added.

3--Former Bush counsel urges Trump to move ahead on declassifying Russia docs


4--George Soros Funded Fusion GPS, His Spokesman Confirms


Jones’ statements to the FBI were first revealed in a report released by Republican members of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on April 27.
“In late March 2017, Jones met with FBI regarding PQG, which he described as ‘exposing foreign influence in Western election,'” reads the committee’s report, referring to Jones’ consulting firm, Penn Quarter Group.

“[Redacted] told FBI that PQG was being funded by 7 to 10 wealthy donors located primarily in New York and California, who provided approximately $50 million,” the report continues. “[Redacted] further stated that PQG had secured the services of Steele, his associate [redacted], and Fusion GPS to continue exposing Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election.”

Jones said that he “planned to share the information he obtained with policymakers … and with the press.” He also offered to provide all materials to the FBI

5--House to release interviews that show "no collusion"

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence will vote Friday on releasing transcripts of 53 interviews conducted during its investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
If the committee approves the measure, as is expected, the transcripts will go to the Director of the Office of National Intelligence for a review of any classified material. The process could take weeks given the number of transcripts involved.
The committee conducted 73 interviews in all during its 15-month investigation, which found no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government....

In addition to investigating the collusion angle, the committee also probed whether the Obama administration illegally unmasked members of the Trump transition team. James Clapper, Loretta Lynch, Samantha Power, Ben Rhodes and Sally Yates were all interviewed on that topic.

The committee conducted 73 witnesses as part of its investigation, which began its investigation in January 2017. Members of the Trump campaign, FBI officials, and various intelligence community officials from the Obama administration were all interviewed as part of the probe. Republicans on the committee released a 253-page report on April 27 which found no evidence of collusion between the campaign and Kremlin

6--The Case against Kavanaugh, Dave Lindorff

We don’t need proof of guilt. All we need to know is that there is significant evidence of an apparent pattern of misconduct towards women that make it clear that this guy should not be in a position to be deciding important cases that involve the rights of women, the credibility of women, or the alleged improper behavior of men. Remember, the women making the charges didn’t know each other, but the accusations are very similar in portraying a guy who is rough, callous, uncaring and basically a sexist and sometimes violent pig.

For example, consider this. Many young men in America, sadly mostly black young men, are languishing in jail today because they were found by a court to have sexually assaulted women as Kavanaugh has been accused of having sexually assaulted Flasey Ford. Those are young men who on the discression of a trial judge, were tried as adults though they, like Kavanaugh, were only 17 when the alleged offenses were said to have occurred and their alleged victims were perhaps 15 or 16, like Blasey Ford. What would Kavanaugh do if such a case were brought before him on the Supreme Court, particularly with the intent of claiming such a decision to try them as adults should be declared unconstitutional? Would he say, as he did on Fox, when asked that question by Fox reporter Marsha MacCallum about how he would judge young men accused of abusing a girl (after a long pause and an attempt to just look at the floor), “I think everyone is judged on their whole life.”
Seriously, judge? How do you judge the “whole life” of a 17-year-old? WTF kind of answer is that?

No, this is not a man fit to be a Supreme Court Justice.

7--No Standards: NBC News' latest charge shows that the media will report any allegation against Kavanaugh, however thin (Lindorff makes a reasonable case against Kavanaugh. The media's "overkill" undermines that case)

That’s all well and good until you take a step back and appreciate this fourth allegation for what it is: An anonymous letter quoting anonymous sources regarding a supposed assault on an anonymous woman who wishes to remain anonymous. The author of the letter isn’t talking about herself. She’s not even talking about her supposed daughter. She’s speaking on behalf of her alleged daughter's alleged friend who is the alleged victim of an event the accuser did not herself witness.
This is NBC’s big scoop?

This is almost as bad as when the New Yorker published unverified allegations that Kavanaugh exposed himself during a drinking game at Yale (the authors, Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer, couldn't confirm whether the judge was even at that party). And it's about as bad as when NBC scrambled to cover a Facebook post written by a former Ford classmate claiming to have knowledge of her assault. The former classmate, who deleted her Facebook post even before NBC published its story, said later that in an interview with NPR, “That [the attack] happened or not, I have no idea.”

8--Russia to supply Syria with up to eight S-300 units – report


9--EU’s special Iran payment channel could take effect before November: Mogherini


10--Federal Reserve lifts interest rates and indicates further hikes


For the first time since the Fed began its low-interest rate regime following the financial crisis of 2008, its base rate is now above the level of inflation...


In the past the Fed has indicated that the inflation rate is its main indicator in determining rate rise. But in conditions of low price rises its main concern is the increase in wages and the fall in the official unemployment rate. Wages have risen by the highest levels in nine years but the year-on-year growth of 2.9 percent is still well below levels experienced in previous “recoveries.”

Stagnant and even declining wage rates, a result of the restructuring of the US economy in the years following 2008, have been a key factor in sustaining the growth of corporate profits and the stock market surge and the Fed is clearly determined that downward pressure on wages needs to be maintained. As Financial Times commentator John Authers noted in a recent article, “[W]age inflation is central to the Fed’s reaction function.”

While the interest rate increase is unlikely to have an immediate significant impact on the US economy, it has implications for the world economy as a whole, particularly in so-called emerging markets with high levels of dollar-denominated loans. The rise in US rates and the consequent upward movement of the US dollar increases the debt and interest payment burdens in these countries, with Argentina and Turkey experiencing significant currency turmoil in the past month..

With central bank balance sheets “still bloated as never before”—as a result of their asset purchasing programs—there was “little medicine left in the chest” in case of a relapse.

11--Washington amplifies war threats against Iran, bullies the world

Iran has emerged as a focal point of US-European tensions. But the rift is deep with Germany, the EU’s dominant power, insisting that Europe can no longer rely on the Trans-Atlantic alliance, forged to wage the Cold War, and must develop the military and financial infrastructure to assert its own predatory interests on the world stage, independently of, and, when needed, against America....

Many informed observers question whether the “special vehicle,” the details of which have yet to be hammered out, will prove effective in sustaining anything more than token levels of trade between Europe and Iran in the face of Washington’s capacity to inflict punishment on those who defy its sanctions. Already a “Who’s Who” of major European-based companies have announced they are pulling out of Iran.

Politically, however, the “special vehicle” represents an unmistakable challenge to Washington—all the more so that it is being mounted in conjunction with Russia and China—and one with potentially tectonic implications for the world economy and geopolitics, given the vital importance to American imperialism of maintaining the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency and principal medium of trade.

12--Kavanaugh’s nomination, Cosby’s sentencing: News media pornography and the enraged middle class

Kavanaugh is a zealous right-winger and enemy of democratic rights. But no Democrat on the Judiciary Committee will ask him, “What was your role in the attempted coup d’état, known as the Starr investigation, against Bill Clinton?” or “Why did you support torture and illegal detention as part of the Bush administration?”...

Speaking on CNN, the Times Michael Shear inadvertently alluded to the anti-democratic character of the campaign against Kavanaugh: “One of the dynamics that we’ve seen throughout this entire #MeToo movement is that accusations that start out as a single, a solitary accusation against… a man in power, often don’t pick up the kind of steam that ultimately forces action until there’s a second allegation, and a third allegation, and beyond. And that’s what creates often the kind of pressure—overwhelming pressure that forces some action.”
Five, ten or twenty accusations do not amount to proof. Kavanaugh may have been guilty of sexual misconduct, but Shear and the rest apparently need to be reminded that every witch-hunt in history has also operated on the principle of “numbers.”

On the part of the Democratic Party and the Times, the incitement of a frenzy over sexual abuse is a conscious political operation.
For the American ruling elite, it is a pressing matter to “change the subject” from economic inequality; to weaken, dissipate and divide popular anger toward the wealthy and capitalist rule by pointing to other guilty parties—men or white people. The aim is to reduce and blunt class hatred and feeling, divide along gender lines, prevent as far as possible and for as long as possible independent political and social action by the working class, slow down and ideologically cripple such a movement, and build up a reactionary constituency within the upper-middle class.

This was the response of the Clinton campaign in 2016 to the mass support for Bernie Sanders: the manipulation of the case of Stanford student Brock Turner and the focus on Trump’s alleged sexual carryings-on.

The current furor is a repetition along even more reactionary lines. It is a reaction to the growth of popular hostility to Trump and anti-capitalist sentiment generally, to the movement of masses of the population to the left and to the increase in strike activity. The sex hysteria is meant to poison the atmosphere, pollute political consciousness, stop people in their tracks, numb and confuse them. It has the effect of completely discrediting the entire political system.

The Times and the Democrats are appealing to a well-to-do social layer that has already moved far to the right. These elements oppose Trump on a right-wing, anti-democratic basis, including the #MeToo sexual witch hunt’s explicit renunciation of due process and the presumption of innocence. All of this is entirely compatible with war, dictatorship and savage attacks on the mass of working people.

13--Kavanaugh Hearing: Yes, There’s a Conspiracy; But It’s Not Coming from Dems

The front groups that have been funded for decades by billionaires Charles and David Koch, majority owners of the fossil fuels conglomerate, Koch Industries, are determined to put Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court because he has demonstrated a willingness to write decisions favorable to gutting regulations on greenhouse gas emissions. Whether Kavanaugh has a history of sexual assaults is irrelevant to that agenda.

As recently as last evening, a dark money group that keeps its donors a secret from the American people, the Judicial Crisis Network, continued running its multi-million dollar ad campaign on television in support of Kavanaugh. This week, its Chief Counsel, Carrie Severino, has made the rounds on cable news shows calling the women’s allegations a smear campaign. The Judicial Crisis Network has been running these ads since July and says it is prepared to spend upwards of $10 million to confirm Kavanaugh. When it takes that kind of an effort to confirm a justice, you know something is seriously wrong. In 2016, just one single anonymous donor contributed a stunning $28.5 million to the Wellspring Committee, another dark money group that funnels the bulk of its money to the Judicial Crisis Network. (See our prior reporting here.)

14--The Bank of International Settlement’s Claudio Borio, Who Warned About the Crisis, Says the World Economy Is About to Get Very Sick

Raising or lowering interest rates to affect demand is therefore less effective than fiscal spending. Government spending directly targets demand deficiencies, and net injections of government stimulus into an economy can override the impact of interest rate manipulation....

When Claudio Borio speaks, the big bankers and investors, the economics profession, and senior policymakers listen quite carefully—even if his sentiments don’t reach the shores of the popular media. Borio, the chief economist for the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the central bankers’ central bank, recently remarked on the fragility of the global economy, and suggested that we were on the verge of a significant relapsesimilar to the global crash experienced 10 years ago. Among the parallels he perceives: the proliferation of “collateralized loan obligations (CLOs), which are ‘close cousins’ of the infamous instruments known as collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs, and securities backed by residential mortgages,” the prevalence of which helped to crater the credit system in 2008.

Mindful as central bankers have been about the ready availability of liquidity, they have (as I have written before) omitted to “proactively… [charging] private market participants variable risk premiums commensurate with the risk of the underlying activity they are undertaking when providing credit.” Furthermore, Borio implies that the monetary and fiscal authorities expended excessive efforts toward restoring the status quo ante, instead of directing policy toward broader job creation and income generation, which would place the economy on sounder footing when the next downturn inevitably comes. Finally, the BIS’s chief economist also publicly mooted whether additional “medicine” of the kind that we used last time will be in sufficient supply to respond adequately when the next crisis emerges....

there are ample grounds for Borio’s caution. He correctly observes the revival of many of the speculative instruments that created so many problems back in 2008, even as policy officials continuedto “administer… ‘powerful medicine’ to counter the effects of the crisis, with ‘unusually and persistently low interest rates.’” Paradoxically, the cure was almost as bad as the disease, given how aggressive monetary ease helped bring these instruments back from near death.

There is no question that in a world dominated by high and persistent levels of debt (particularly private debt), low interest rates helped to reduce the crushing burden for borrowers. But to extend the medical analogy, using interest rates to cure a global debt deflation is akin to using a sledgehammer during surgery, rather than a scalpel. There are diffuse outcomes for the cure. For every borrower aided by lower rates, there are savers (pensioners, et al) who have been adversely impacted by the prevailing low interest rate structure. Savers secure less income from minimal interest rates on their assets. Recall that when the government runs deficits, it is a large net payer of interest on its outstanding debt....

Professor Pavlina Tcherneva has illustrated, “Only during the 1950-53 expansion did the bottom 90% capture all of the average income growth in the economy. Since then, the top 10% of households have been capturing greater and greater share of the income growth and, in the first two expansions of the 21st century, they have captured all of the income growth.”

15-- The Bank of International Settlements said Sunday the global economy risked a "relapse" of the crisis that rocked it a decade ago, warning there was little "medicine" left to treat the patient a second time.


16--Japanese Monetary Policy: A Case of Self-Induced Paralysis?, Bernanke 1999




Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Today's Links

1--Is the Fed boxed in?

First, higher interest rates will, other things being equal, make the dollar stronger. This is a very big deal for the emerging market countries that have borrowed trillions of US dollars and will now have to pay off those loans in ever-more-expensive currency. Since they’ve borrowed most of these dollars from developed-world banks, that means trillions of dollars of potentially non-performing loans, leading to yet another massive bailout of European and American banks and the financial instability that that implies.

Second — and far more systemically dangerous — corporate, government and consumer debt (especially student debt) are all at record levels. Send the economy back into recession with higher interest rates, and government tax revenues, corporate sales and profits, and personal incomes all fall at the same time interest costs are soaring because of those higher rates.
So from emerging markets to US corporations to Washington’s budget to consumers’ balance sheets, the next recession might be death spirals all the way down. Which means rising interest rates will beget much, much lower rates before too long.

2--Europe Unveils "Special Purpose Vehicle" With Russia and China To Bypass SWIFT, Jeopardizing Dollar's Reserve Status


via CNBC
  • Europe, Russia and China join forces with a new mechanism to dodge Iran sanctions
  • European Union's foreign policy chief announced Monday that the bloc was creating a new payment mechanism to allow countries to transact with Iran while avoiding U.S. sanctions.
  • Called the "special purpose vehicle" (SPV), this mechanism would aim to "assist and reassure economic operators pursuing legitimate business with Iran," according to a joint statement released by the remaining members of the Iran nuclear deal.
  • The U.S. has the power to expand its sanctions to target the mechanism, putting the venture's feasibility into doubt.

 3--The Most Splendid Housing Bubbles in America


Home prices in the US surged 6.0% in July compared to a year ago (not seasonally-adjusted), and 0.4% compared to June, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index released this morning. The index is now 11.2% above the July 2006 peak of the first housing bubble in this millennium, “Housing Bubble 1,



Home prices in the Seattle metro did the unthinkable and unspeakable, after a historic spike: They edged down a tiny bit in July from June. This is interesting not because of the size of the decline (it’s small), but because of the fact that price increases were the norm in every July through 2011. July should be a seasonally strong month. But not this year. So the wait has started for confirmation of the inflection point. Over the past 12 months, the index has jumped 12.0% and is up 35% from the peak of Seattle’s crazy Housing Bubble 1 (July 2007):

4--$100 Oil Is A Distinct Possibility


5--Kremlin Denies Russia Rejected Offer on Netanyahu Visit After Il-20 Downing


Earlier in the day, Israeli media reported that Moscow allegedly turned down an Israeli offer on the visit by its high-ranking officials following last week’s downing of a Russian military plane off the Syrian coast.
The Kremlin spokesman has denied Israeli media reports which claimed that Moscow had rejected Tel Aviv's offer on a visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman after the downing of the Il-20 in Syria.

"This is not true. The newspaper [Haaretz] provides incorrect information. From the very beginning, there was a proposal by the Israeli prime minister to send a military delegation headed by the commander of the air force, which was done," Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

 According to the newspaper, the possibility was also raised that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman would go to Moscow to attempt to calm things down.

Russia, however, preferred that the contacts remain at the professional level, between Israel Air Force Commander Amikam Norkin Norkin and the commander of the Russian air force, the newspaper wrote....

Israel and Russia maintain close contacts as they try to smooth over tensions surrounding last week’s incident, Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said in an interview with the local Russian-language Channel 9 TV.
"In recent years, we have attacked Iranian facilities or Hezbollah facilities 200 times. Not a single Russian soldier was hurt because we carefully stick to all agreements maintaining all contacts, all coordination and all points of interaction with the Russian side. It would be strange if we violated this on the 201st occasion, wouldn’t it? The entire responsibility lies with the army (of Syrian President Bashar) Assad," the minister added.

When asked if Israel will continue to operate in Syria like it has done before, Lieberman said: "We will always defend our interests. We can’t afford any compromises about our security, whether it is our geography, topography or the size of our country."
On Tuesday, the Israeli government instructed the country's armed forces to continue its operations against the Iranian military presence in Syria while maintaining coordination with Russia on security issues.

6--DMZ deal puts onus on Turkey

One other result of this agreement is that it brought for the first time a deadline to the questions stemming from the presence of jihadist groups in the enclave while employing Turkey with the task of convincing all these groups to leave the demilitarized zone within a few weeks.

The groups include the heavily armed Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance and other foreign fighters coming from former Soviet republics and China. It’s believed that they control around 70 percent of the zone and that they have already started reinforcing their positions in the face of a military offensive

Many analysts are concerned that implementing this deal will be a very difficult one and a failure in this process could even further complicate the situation in the Idlib province. Turkish and Russian officials are in intense technical works to separate civilians from terrorists and to ensure the implementation of this agreement through a joint committee, however, the real burden is obviously on Turkey’s shoulders.
Thanks to the deal, Turkey won time to stop a military offensive and therefore avoid a new humanitarian disaster and a fresh refugee influx toward its border. However, a potential collapse of the deal because of the unwillingness of radical groups for removal from the zone would mean a green light for the Russia-Syria-Iran trio to resume their military offensive against all armed groups in the region.

7--Michelle Obama outshines all Democratic prospects for 2020


This alternative plan requires a new, united opposition, led by a political leader with widespread popularity.
The only person I can see accomplishing this would be none other than the party’s most popular political figure: Michelle Obama.

Michelle Obama is perceived as a strong, well-qualified leader with immense national popularity. Broadly, the polls show she is respected by the American people and by the near-entirety of the Democratic Party.
Although Michelle Obama has stated that she is not interested in a presidential bid, her appeal and support for her husband remain robust.

According to the January 2017 USA Today/Gallup poll, Michelle Obama left the White House with a 68 percent favorability rating, compared with 58 percent for President Obama and 61 percent for Vice President Biden.

While it is common for first ladies to be more favored than their husbands, Michelle Obama’s favorability is substantially higher than Hillary Clinton’s rating of 56 percent from 2000 when she and President Clinton left the White House.

Furthermore, Michelle Obama’s favorability rating is significantly greater than President Trump’s. According to the RealClear Politics Average, Trump’s latest favorability rating lies at 39.7 percent — a whopping 30 points less than Michelle Obama.

Just last month, Public Policy Polling found there to be “significant yearning for a return to the days of President Obama,” with 52 percent of voters saying they wish Barack Obama was still president, and only 39 percent preferring president Trump.

In fact, in a series of hypothetical match-ups between leading Democrats and President Trump, Barack Obama’s 52 percent represents the highest level of support, outnumbering Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren in particular.

This data makes it clear that President Obama, or at the very least a candidate intimately associated with his tenure, would have a better chance at defeating President Trump than any of the 2020 hopefuls.
Considering that Michelle Obama had an even higher favorability rating than President Obama when he left office, she clearly would have a tremendous opportunity to succeed if she ran.
As an analyst, I believe that she is the candidate the divided Democratic Party needs. Otherwise, the party could well rip itself apart.

Michelle Obama stands a cut above the rest as the only prospective candidate who can bring the party together, rebuild the Obama coalition, win back the Midwest and, thus, win the presidency.

8--Poll: Michelle Obama gets high marks

Barack Obama's approval ratings are good. Michelle Obama's are better.
In a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Monday and Tuesday, 79% say they approve of the way Michelle Obama is handling the job of first lady. Just 8% disapprove.

To compare, her husband's rating in the Gallup Poll released Thursday is 65% approval, 29% disapproval — undeniably a healthy rating. Even so, asked about her stronger showing, senior White House adviser David Axelrod jokes, "Fortunately, she's agreed not to run against us."

What's more, while the president's rating shows a sharp partisan divide — Democrats overwhelmingly approve of him but most Republicans don't — Michelle Obama's appeal crosses party lines. Almost every Democrat expresses approval, 94%-1%. Even among Republicans, her approval rating is 64%-17%.

9--2020 poll: Run Michelle Obama Run!


10--Trump to inherit state-run TV network with expanded reach--12-16-- Clearing the way for a new era of domestic propaganda 


A provision tucked into the defense bill guts the Voice of America board, stoking fears that Trump could wield a powerful propaganda arm

President-elect Donald Trump is about to inherit a newly empowered Voice of America that some officials fear could serve as an unfettered propaganda arm for the former reality TV star who has flirted for years with launching his own network.
Buried on page 1,404 of the National Defense Authorization Act that passed last week is a provision that would disband the bipartisan board of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the independent U.S. agency that includes Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Free Asia and the Middle East Broadcast Network

The move — pushed by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce as a way to streamline the agency — concentrates control into a powerful CEO who is appointed by the president.
That change, combined with a 2013 legislative revision that allows the network to legally reach a U.S. audience, which was once banned, could pave the way for Trump-approved content created by the U.S. diplomacy arm, if he chooses to exploit the opportunity.
Essentially, Trump is finally getting his Trump TV — financed by taxpayers to the tune of $800 million per year. And some of the few people in the know aren’t happy about it.

“Congress unwittingly just gave President-elect Trump unchecked control of all U.S. media outlets,” said Michael Kempner, a Democratic member of the board who was appointed by President Barack Obama and was a Hillary Clinton donor. “No president, either Democrat or Republican, should have that kind of control. It’s a public jewel. Its independence is what makes it so credible.”


ow that Trump is getting for free a major media apparatus with loosened restrictions, Democratic and Republican members of the current board are alarmed.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors is the largest public diplomacy program by the U.S. government, reaching an audience of 278 million by broadcasting in 100 countries and 61 languages. The agency was created in 1942 during World War II to send pro-democracy news across Europe, as it aimed to counter Nazi and Japanese propaganda. The agency has since evolved into a more traditional news operation, while still pushing out the virtues of democracy worldwide.

To date, the nine-member board — which consists of four Republicans and four Democrats appointed by the president, as well as the secretary of state — has been a part-time operation, but it served as a firewall with the mission of preserving the integrity of the agency’s broadcasts. The organization's charter calls for "accuracy, balance, comprehensiveness, and objectivity."
A Republican government official familiar with the agency’s work warned that abolishing the board will make it susceptible to the influence of Trump’s allies, including his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who ran Breitbart News before joining Trump’s campaign.

“There’s some fear among the folks here, that the firewall will get diminished and attacked and this could fall victim to propaganda,” the Republican official said. “They will hire the person they want, the current CEO does not stand a chance. This will pop up on Steve Bannon’s radar quickly. They are going to put a friendly person in that job.”
Officials in particular fear that Trump and his allies could change the agency’s posture toward Russia, considering how Trump has expressed a positive view of President Vladimir Putin.

Multiple media outlets in the BBG family aim to counter Russia propaganda, including CurrentTime, which was introduced two years ago and broadcasts in Russia according to the NPR model, and Radio Free Europe. With Radio Free Asia, the U.S. also pushes back against China’s state messages, and Trump and his allies could potentially use the network to antagonize the country, which the president-elect already alarmed with his call with the Taiwanese president.
Because of the modification of the Smith-Mundt Act in 2013, the BBG can now broadcast in the U.S., too. But the influence on the domestic market could be even more subtle, the Republican official warned.
A BBG CEO influenced by the administration could penetrate established media outlets with packages, series or other news products produced by the BBG’s networks but picked up and aired by traditional media like Fox News or Breitbart. Many U.S. outlets currently use content from VOA....

In a sign of how significant the changes are, Hillary Clinton's transition team set up a meeting to visit the studios at 330 Independence Avenue the Wednesday after the election, according to two sources. The meeting was canceled after her loss, however, and the Trump transition team has not visited the studios.

But some top BBG officials are more measured in their reaction to Trump’s ability to influence the agency.

Jeff Shell, chairman of BBG’s board and an Obama appointee, said the changes to the agency’s structure were long overdue. “To have part-time board members to manage something like this is completely unrealistic, so I very much support the empowered CEO than a board,” he said, adding, “There’s always a risk with any federal agency, whether this administration or another that they’re going to use the organization in a partisan way."...


The complaints about the agency have not been purely partisan. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has in the past complained about the agency, calling the board ineffectual and “defunct” in January 2013. Later that year, the BBG faced more controversy when it was revealed that less than 1 percent of Cubans listened to its expensive TV Martí service.